Football: Fan's Eye View: Living on golden memories

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The Independent Online
THE last time Wolves played before fans situated on all four sides of Molineux they had a young Tim Flowers in goal, Ray Hankin led the line, Tommy Docherty was manager and England used to qualify for World Cup finals. Yes, it's been a long time. However all that will be consigned to the memory bin as the opening this week of a new stand on the site of the grand old South Bank completes a rejuvenated all-seated, all-singing Molineux.

Of course in those days we were under the ownership of the Bhatti Brothers, attendances were down to three thousand and Sir Jack Hayward's patronage seemed a million miles away.

Even after the brothers' departure we were reliant on loans from the Professional Footballers' Association, administration by the Official Receiver and a lifeline from the local council to keep the club from entering heaven's gate. But somehow out of this wreckage came Steve Bull and his golden goals to catapult us out of the depths of the Fourth Division to a promotion step away from the Premiership.

But that small step seems to be getting bigger all the time. Hopefully the new stand will be as significant as a signing on the pitch. At the very least it's given the fans back the sort of pride we once had and it's a great feeling to go to rivals like West Bromwich, Derby and Leicester and sing 'What a dump, what a dump, what a dump' without any sense of irony.

But however thrilled we are it seems to have failed to impress the FA who have overlooked Molineux as a venue for the European Championship finals in favour of Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa - and they still have standing sections.

So where to now; the season's almost half over and after all the hype we haven't quite dominated the First Division like Newcastle did last year. Fortunately no one else has either. Overall it's been a mixed bag. We've been at our worst since we were promoted four years ago with dismal defeats at Watford and Grimsby and probably our best in a Bully-inspired demolition of Derby.

We are out of Europe. It's only the Anglo-Italian Cup, I know, but it would have been nice to take our banners to Florence or Pisa and pretend to be in a serious European tournament. Not many can claim they have lost to Swindon (we did]) and perversely it's been rumoured that we will be Graham Taylor's next employers.

After everything Taylor has under-achieved it is doubtful we will forgive him for the treatment meted out to Bully. He was discarded after two miserly starts and then told he was not good enough for England because he played outside the top division. Graham Taylor for manager? We'd rather have Mr Blobby. Perhaps, though, the rumour is just a subtle PR scam to get us off our own Graham's back. If that is the case it's been a masterstroke. We live in hope.

Ah, Graham Turner. He's survived more votes of confidence than anyone in his profession and it can be only a matter of time before he qualifies for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Obviously he has done his bit for the club and no one can take that away from him, but in recent years he has hardly been an inspiring force as his last signing, Mike Small on loan, would suggest.

However, recent thinking on the pitch could well have qualified him to a nomination for the Turner Prize. Forget about midfield diamond formations and check out our abstract deployment of a five-man defence which centres on the two left- backs, Mark Venus and Paul Edwards, both playing, erm, at left-back. I would love to say how effective it has been but having seen us squander yet another lead (at Leicester) it's pretty difficult to do so.

On Tuesday night we play Honved in a friendly to celebrate the completion of Molineux. Be prepared for plenty of nostalgia about Wolves' pioneering European nights, the golden era of Wright, Cullis and Jesse Pye.

As the dream of promotion drifts, the need to clutch at straws becomes inevitable. Perhaps we can even seek consolation from our tradition, as tucked away in a seemingly endless sequence of score draws this season is a little run of four consecutive one-ones. History suggests that it could be a turning point as the last time it occurred, back in 1949-50, we finished second. A similar position this season would do us just fine.

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